Mark Zikra, Senior Vice President, Technology and Innovation, Student Living, CA Ventures
When Real Estate collided headfirst with Silicon Valley, we were left dizzy and confused, stumbling our way through a haze of tech-startups, buzzwords, and under informed decision making. All with lasting implications on billion-dollar portfolios. Over the ensuing five years, the “PropTech” flood didn’t stop, but the decision making became more informed, buzzwords less buzzy, and innovation became the clear objective for many developers.
The original concept for “PropTech” began with simple, single point solutions. Small pieces of technology that could target the major systems in a building. HVAC sensors, motion-based lighting, water distribution, etc… As we moved through the years, these single point solutions have grown into more cohesive environments. Shifting to a more human centric approach to innovation, big data, and AI. Throughout this article we will discuss the central themes to consider in designing a technology and innovation team as well as practical application for data outputs and analytics.
Today, there is a veritable gold rush of go-to-market cutting-edge technology available in real estate. With a near infinite number of choices in just about every type of technology you can imagine, how do you even begin?
Technology is no longer an afterthought for consideration. It is imperative to start with a defined outcome in order tomaximize your return and move forward with impactful solutions. As a starting point, consider these three primary pillars for entry for successful innovation:
1. Having the right people on the team
2. A clearly articulated vision
3. An agreed upon decision making process
Get the right people involved
The fascinating thing about this space is the sheer number of people it takes to implement a new technology or service and the impact it can have over time. No matter what your vision is and how you want to position yourself, it will have broad scale implications for all departments within an organization.
For technology and innovation to prosper, the right people, and the right departments need to be involved from the get-go. This team should be cross departmental, unifying the corporate vision for innovation.
Having a clearly defined strategic vision
There are a two absolutely critical points to discuss when defining a strategic vision.
• Where do we want to position ourselves in the market?
• Do we want to be an industry leader and accept the risks that come with being a first mover, or do we want to follow and play it safe?
Before answering those questions, it’s important to consider this: the concept of technological innovation should first be focused on solving the problems that are either extremely inefficient, mundane, repetitive, or unnecessary. Once you have an idea of what specifically your organization may be able to benefit from, only then does innovation start to show its value.
Listen, there is nothing wrong with following the herd. Staying competitive in any space often means innovation and advancement with the current trends. Whether with building design, leasing, and marketing, operations, or technological advancements, there are many ways to stay competitive. But to disrupt, that is a whole different mindset.
Develop a standard decision-making process for innovation
Organizations have a difficult time separating the “I.T. team” from the Technology and Innovation team. While these are by no means mutually exclusive, the focus is inherently different. Having a Technology Leadership Team has aided CA Ventures in developing cutting edge cross platform innovation. We have developed a collaboration forum for bringing new ideas and challenges to the table and processes for discovering, vetting, and implementing new products and services.
Technology is no longer an after thought for consideration. It is imperative to start with a defined outcome in order to maximize your return and move forward with impactful solutions
Innovation requires buy-in from the entirety of the enterprise. Having representation for all departments streamlines the decision-making process. All departments face different challenges. Working together to solve those as a group reduces inefficiency and enables greater scale to all innovation. When considering the growth of this space and the required human capital just to keep up, this team becomes a critical part of the future of industry.
Until recently, real estate has been viewed as not much more than a physical space for residents to sleep and park their car. But as we’ve seen, repositioning our mindset away from the physical space and into properties being hubs for the delivery of products and services can transform the physical into something much more intangible.
The seamless integration of the entire ecosystem allows for informed actions and reactions based on the feedback of other devices in the system. As the platform develops, the density of the ecosystem grows. Each individual component plays a major part in the efficiency of the property.
These interactions will drive:
• Energy savings
• Disaster prevention
• Integrated resident services
• Better tenant interactions
• Improved security layers
• Increased building value
• Enhanced due diligence packets
• Business Intelligence
• Predictive maintenance
The concept of the Apartment As A Service (AaaS) becomes inevitable as we advance down this path. Apartment buildings will be embedded with cross platform integration, a central backbone of big data, and building intelligence. All leading to supercharged residential experiences unlike anything seen today.
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